The Austrian Parliament must vote on a universal vaccine mandate

VIENNA (AP) – The Austrian parliament will vote on Thursday on the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for adults, the first …

VIENNA (AP) – The Austrian parliament is due to vote on Thursday on the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for adults, the first of its kind in Europe.

The mandate drawn up by the government will apply to all residents of Austria aged 18 and over, with the exception of pregnant women, persons who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and persons who have recovered from a coronavirus infection. within the last six months.

It appears to have secured approval. Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s governing coalition, made up of his conservative Austrian People’s Party and the Greens, worked with two of the three opposition parties in parliament on the plan. The other opposition party, the right-wing extremist Freedom Party, is vehemently against it.

The vaccine mandate is scheduled to become law in early February. To begin with, the authorities will write to each household to inform them of the new rules.

From mid-March, police will begin checking people’s vaccination status during routine checks; Persons unable to present proof of vaccination will be asked in writing to do so and will be fined up to 600 euros ($ 685) if they do not.

If the authorities assess that the country’s vaccination progress is still insufficient, Nehammer says they will then send reminders to people who remain unvaccinated. If it still does not work, people will be sent a vaccination agreement and get a fine if they do not comply with it. Officials hope they do not have to use the latter measure. The fines can reach 3,600 euros if people contest their punishment and a full trial is opened.

The mandate is expected to remain in place until the end of January 2024. An expert commission will report to the government and parliament every three months on vaccination progress.

The government originally intended the mandate to apply to all residents aged 14 and over, but changed it to 18 during consultations with political opponents and others.

The Austrian government announced the plan for a universal vaccine mandate, while introducing a since-lifted lockdown in November and due to concerns that Austria’s vaccination rate was relatively low for Western Europe. On Wednesday, 71.8% of the population of 8.9 million were considered fully vaccinated.

“All experts believe we will also need high general immunity in the population next fall,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said Sunday. “With this vaccine mandate, we will succeed in achieving these important additional percentage points in the vaccination rate.”

Some other European countries have introduced vaccine mandates for specific professional or age groups. Neighboring Germany is considering a mandate for all, but it is not yet clear when and in what form it will move forward.

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